Content Warning: References to child abuse and domestic violence.
Vladislaus Straud, who had been known to devour creatures whole—blood and bone and sinew and skin—was now living in inexorable fear of crossing a wide-eyed mortal named Alice Martin.
Don’t you dare fucking follow me.
He paced the halls of Straud Manor like a caged animal. This place, that up until six months ago, had been one he never wanted to leave, suddenly felt like a trap. He wasn’t ashamed of Alice, he was ashamed of himself.
Caleb and William would be delighted to hear that he considered Straud Manor unsuitable for company.
Delighted and probably filled with schadenfreude.
But it was the truth. Straud Manor was a tomb and he couldn’t imagine Alice would enjoy that. Commandeering Herr Bramley’s downtown apartment seemed like a good idea, a way to keep her from leaving him until…
She was mortal, but he couldn’t stop himself. Every time he thought about leaving her to her own devices, it summoned up an emotion he had no name for. Something bright and hot, with an edge of panic to it.
He tried to lose himself in plans for obtaining The Owl, but that only reminded him of yet another obstacle: how to ensure Jimena handed it over without further infuriating the woman who had told him to “get bent.”
On top of that, there was the summons from the Sages, the aliens Caleb kept ranting about, plus all the competitors he’d have to kill in the interim.
He wasn’t even sure why he wanted The Owl anymore. All his initial reasoning felt wrong. Get rid of the curse but lose everything he felt with Alice? Undo every change to the world he despised but in the process, destroy all the things she liked? Bring back his wi—
He clamped down on the last thought before it could finish.
Sacrifices and violence, that’s what it would take to get The Owl. And Vlad was made to endure the means to get to the end.
He tried sending Alice another message.
And so, with the dignity afforded to him as a king, Vlad launched his phone straight into the wall.
It wasn’t that William had never seen Vladislaus throw anything into a wall before. But wasn’t the point of a conscience to smooth out these rough edges? Wasn’t “feeling” supposed to bring about a calmer Vladislaus who thought about consequences before he acted? Had William misunderstood the curse?
He hardly got a word out before his old friend was on the defensive.
“Am I now to suffer a lecture from Aurelius William Redding too?” he spat, staring William down with cold eyes.
It was meant to hurt—vampires wielded names like weapons. For his part, William had not heard his real first name uttered in centuries.
Once upon a time he had been Aurelius. Back when Josef Straud rode into the backwoods to snatch the strongest teenagers to serve the guard. His mother declared his name proudly and the King, who loved nothing more than to destroy the things that others wanted, declared he would only ever be William.
“I’ve not been Aurelius since my mother took me ‘round the side of the cottage and shook me ‘til my teeth rattled in my head,” William replied calmly.
It was his clearest memory of his mother. What have I taught you, Aurelius? Only a fool would let them see what he truly wants. Only a fool would let them see him upset.
“The same mother who didn’t bother to see you off?” Vlad sneered, “What was it she said? Oh I recall now: I’ve other mouths to feed.”
Another jab. But Vladislaus was wrong. It wasn’t until William watched his mother’s retreating back that he knew she truly loved him.
Only a fool would let them see him upset.
Chuckling, William kept his tone purposefully light. “What ails you, Vladislaus? At this rate, courtship will kill you before the week is through.”
Vlad’s answering look was bitter. I would not deign to tell you, it said, but William knew better.
He remembered the boy who would creep into the barracks, having been beaten within in an inch of his life. He recalled stitching up wounds and resetting bones by candlelight, always careful to tell Vladislaus what his own mother had instilled in him: learn to play dead.
Desire is weakness, Josef was fond of saying. It was his favorite lesson.
Taking a step forward, William softened his voice. “I’m not your father. I’ve nothing to take from you and I’m not searching for weak spots.”
For a second, Vlad’s whole body went rigid. Then, vulnerability flashing in his eyes, he relented.
Over in the Realm of the Fae…
“You’re stupid,” Titania declared loudly as she stomped into the room.
Akira leapt up from his seat and gave his sister a rueful smile. “You’ve called me worse.”
She shrugged, tossing her silver hair over her shoulder.
“I didn’t choose Miko over you,” he said, trying to make amends.
“Oh Akira, you dummy. Of course you did,” Titania sighed, stepping past him to grab the glass of liquor and toss it into the sink. “But that’s what love does. It makes you stupid and selfish. That’s why you need me, to keep you on the straight and narrow.”
“I wasn’t gonna drink—”
“I know,” she said firmly, her eyes determined. “So about that woman. You still don’t get it. She’s—”
“Uh, she’s the god of death,” he interjected, getting a childish thrill out of stealing his sister’s thunder.
Undeterred, Titania hopped up on the bar and folded her legs. “She summoned Bonehilda’s husband, you know. I doubt on purpose. It was silly to do something that required so much power.”
“Her problem is not power. She has enough power coursing through her veins to flatten a fuckin’ planet,” Akira argued.
“Yes, but to summon Agony himself was an amateur move. Wasteful. Think, Akira. The God of Death is in a mortal body, but they expend a truckload of power summoning a demigod?”
“I know,” Akira growled. “What do you want me to say? When she didn’t fall for the glamour I should have investigated. But I didn’t expect B’Ollithiranon to be in a body like that! And Miko was clearly trying to help—”
He stopped abruptly. His sister was right. He was stupid. Why did a god, even an almost-god need Miko’s help?
“She doesn’t know what she’s doing,” he said slowly, the realization dawning on him. “I didn’t get my ass kicked by a mastermind. The Owl is bound to her…”
“What happens to her, happens to The Owl,” Titania confirmed.
It was a fact Akira knew all too well. He never understod why The Fates agreed to bind him to Miko, but when he came begging on his knees, they wove him into her thread without question. The result? If she died, he died.
—which was just as well. He didn’t want to be without her.
His sister gave him a smug look before snapping her fingers and appearing in the chair on the other side of the room.
“Show off,” Akira snorted. But it came out more lighthearted than he felt. Miko kept company with a powerful witch, but what could either of them want with the God of Death?
“Why a baking contest?” he asked instead. “It doesn’t make a lick of sense. All sorts of creatures are comin’ out the woodworks. The Fates can’t want her to fail.”
He realized the irony in his statement. He hoped to be successful in getting The Owl which meant he was counting on exactly that: the God of Death’s failure. He’d never given it much thought before. Gods fell all the time. They became lesser things or forgotten things or ceased to exist at all.
“Because dummy, they’ll all make the same mistake you did: thinking the God of Death will be in the body of some monster, not fumbling around trying to make the perfect soufflé!”
“I’m not a dummy! You’re being fuckin’ cryptic! Speak plain or don’t speak at all!” he fumed, but his act of bravado did nothing to calm his flurry of nerves. What was Miko caught up in?
Titania got up with huff. “Well, if you’re going to be this stupid then it’s obvious I can’t help you!”
“Titania,” Akira warned. “You won’t keep me here so if you want me to go out there unprepared, you might as well just kill me yourself.”
“You keep threatening that,” she mumbled. “It can be arranged.”
“Well then put me out of my fuckin’ misery!” he roared.
Titania reared back but wasn’t cowed. She bit her lip. “I saw an Oracle. She said war was coming to Windenburg. Gods and steel and heaps of dead.”
“Sims waking up with dust in their eyes, power at their finger tips, gods in their mouths,” when she looked up at him, her eyes were haunted. “She said they would wipe out everything.”
“But that’s impossible,” Akira whispered. “The Good Order Monks, they only ever made Vladislaus and he’s just a vampire with some underworld demon trapped inside him. Volatile, sure. Stronger than most of the things in that realm, but not a god.”
Though even as Akira said it, he realized he wasn’t sure. He didn’t know what was trapped inside Vladislaus. Everything fell apart with Miko and he lost track of things in the mortal realm.
Josef Straud wanted immortality and infinite power, but he was dead.
I will mold him to be the perfect vessel. Even if I have to break every bone to do it.
“Titania, we have a problem. Miko, this woman…” he swallowed nervously. “They need help.”
“You’re telling me. Oracles only report the inevitable. Miko doesn’t just need The Owl. She needs an army.”
He could do that. He could help make sure the God of Death won. He could deliver Miko an army.
He clenched his fist. “Are you sayin’ what I think you’re sayin’?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Titania said with a roll of her eyes. “You stay for dinner and we’ll help you save stupid Miko and the stupid God of Death.”
He threw his arms around his sister. After a few seconds, she squirmed out of his grip.
“I’m not doing this for you,” she sniffed. “You know I love a war. It’s good for my complexion.”
Akira ignored her. “Say what you want. I love you and I know you didn’t want to forgive me, so thank you.”
“Oh, don’t thank me,” she called over her shoulder as she strolled towards the door. “You’ll have to pay a visit to Oberon.”
“Did I mention it’s our anniversary?”
Maybe forgiveness was too strong a word.
Meanwhile, back at Straud Manor…
“I just want to understand why you would do such a thing,” William said, trying to suppress his laughter.
“I was trying to shield her from—“ Vlad broke off. Only William could get him to open up like this. Distract him like this.
The Last Great Knight of Windenburg folded his arms and waggled his eyebrows, “Go on.”
“How much of a monster I am,” Vlad finished irritably. “My life, as it is, is not what she wants so I tried to protect her and she got angry about it!”
“You don’t know that,” William pointed out. “You don’t know what she wants, you never asked her.”
Vlad narrowed his eyes, but William pressed on. “She likes you, though it’s a mystery given how unreasonable you are. When you hold something back from her it feels like you are being dishonest. Like you don’t trust her to see you as you are.”
Vlad bristled, hating the feeling of being called out. He had already made a change and now he was supposed to lay himself bare for her too? It was too much.
“I learned to text,” he said defensively.
“Text? Ha! A small thing. You were already on shaky ground after auditions. If you want her, you’ll have to do a fair sight better than your current effort. You haven’t even taken her anywhere!” William warned, effortlessly taking another one of Vlad’s pieces.
Examining the board, Vlad considered William’s words. He was protecting himself, really. He knew that.
“I said Kaylnn’s name,” he confessed, glancing up just in time to see William’s shocked face.
“Don’t give me that look!” Vlad scowled. “I wasn’t confused. I just…I just forgot what it felt like. I haven’t felt…that. Not since I was alive.”
“But you still think about her,” William said. It was a statement not a question.
“But I still think about her,“ Vlad agreed. “Even after all this time.”
“I still dream about Tobias,” William divulged, avoiding Vlad’s gaze. “Sometimes, when I’ve gone to ground, I can still hear him. Calling me.”
They sat quietly for a moment, equally aware of the weight of all their years. It wasn’t that Vlad couldn’t bear William’s sadness, but that sadness came with guilt. William died beside him, tied to a fate he had not chosen.
“Remember the Grand Ball of 1493?” Vlad mused. “Mother wondered where all the candles from the sconces had gone to. Imagine her surprise seeing them on your cake.”
“Your father very nearly had a heart attack when he saw that banner,” William laughed, slapping his palm on the table and making the board rattle.
Tobias had risked Josef’s wrath to celebrate William’s birthday with a banner bearing his full name. It was, by far, the wildest thing the scholarly knight had ever done.
“I wish he had, it was the only thing that could have improved the day,” Vlad gasped, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye.
Chuckling, William slid his chess piece forward. It was checkmate, but Vlad found he didn’t even mind losing. Again.
“Cheater,” he huffed, but it was with a smile.
“Sore loser! 1493? I’m surprised you can remember your 18th year, Vladislaus,” William teased.
“Well, I’m not as old as you,” Vlad shot back.
“Could’ve fooled me! Quit trying to change the subject anyways. You need to fix this with her. And don’t look so insulted! Swallow your pride, you vain creature.”
Vlad blew a puff of air through his nostrils. William was an unrepentant know-it-all. Nevertheless, the prospect of going another day with Alice furious at him was miserable.
“Fine. But it’s unclear how I avoid this mansplaining,” he grumbled.
“Oh that’s easy,” William laughed, after they reset the board. “Just listen to that voice in your head that tells you to stop talking.”
Over in Sulani, after a quick trip by mirror portal…
The sand and sun was unbearably hot, but Akira refused to take off his boots. He wouldn’t be staying long.
“Brother!” Oberon exclaimed, throwing his arms wide. “Hell yes! Everybody! A toast to my brother: Akira Kibo, the Rushlight!”
Akira winced, he hated that name, but he didn’t need to give his brother-in-law any ammunition.
“Oberon,” he acknowledged, his tone restrained. “Tania said you had information to help me?”
“Information?” he shouted, pumping his fist. “Fuck yeah I got information!”
Without missing a beat, he turned back to the woman he must have been flirting with earlier. Akira hated being caught in the middle of Titania and Oberon’s foreplay. It was always like this: Oberon would take a mortal to bed. Titania would appear, the imperious Queen, and punish them both thoroughly.
He did not want to be here when the punishment started. Burning flesh always turned his stomach.
“You plannin’ on revealing this information anytime soon?” Akira asked, unable to keep the snarl out of his voice.
“Oh, definitely planning on revealing somethin’ soon, isn’t that right babe?”
“Sometime this fuckin’ century?” Akira interrupted, glancing at the woman hoping she’d take the hint and walk away.
“Chill out my dude, I got you!”
Magic swirled through the bar, causing the speaker to give a sharp shriek of feedback. Oberon smirked, reached into the air and pulled out a dossier.
Akira was more than a little annoyed when the woman followed them over to the table. “Is this necessary?” he grumbled.
“What?” Oberon’s eyes wide and guileless.
“This!” Akira seethed, gesturing at the woman who was sitting happily on the table.
“No, you’re totes right,” Oberon nodded, his eyes flicking over to the woman. “Try a different pose. Make it sexy!”
He continued in sotto voice “Titania likes to feel like there’s competition.”
Akira tried not to roll his eyes, but failed. “Can we just cut the bullshit and get back to it?”
He reached for the file. As he flipped through the images, Oberon filled in the details.
“Lily Feng. Witch. School of magic: unknown. Chick has a crew that can go through a place like a wrecking ball. She binds spirits, uses them as her attack dogs. Titania and I had her back in the 17th. Or was it the 18th? Centuries are weird. Still gives me nightmares.”
Akira kept quiet and lifted the next photo.
“The Pleasant sisters. Smokin’ hot. Gross appetites. Worse than the gnomes.”
At Akira’s curious look Oberon explained. “Basilisks. Both of them. Never fucked though. Titania hates reptiles.”
Akira gritted his teeth. If he never heard about his sister’s sex life again it would be too soon. He picked up the the next photo.
“Thorne Bailey. Del Sol Valley superstar by day, incubus by night, huge—”
“What? It was the best night of my life. He’s a gentle lover. I’m not sayin’ you shouldn’t kill him, I’m just sayin’ I’ll be sad. Anyways, dude’s always surrounded by sirens. Wears baller coats. Has a pretty infinite supply of power if you know what I mean…”
Akira did know what he meant. It was the sort of thing they used to say about him. Akira the Insatiable. Another hated nickname. He picked up the next photo quicker than necessary.
“The Goths. They’re—”
“I know what they are,” Akira said with a shiver. He was hoping to avoid them at all costs.
“The werewolves will probably go to someone as muscle, you’ll see your occasional banshee or golem. Dryads will likely sit this one out. But the creature I’d worry about—”
Akira knew before he flipped the photo over.
“Do you know what he is?” Akira asked, tightening his grip.
Oberon was 1400 years old. He’d spent way more time than Akira in the mortal realm. If anyone would know…
Gone was the joking tone and the surfer dude accent. “Even I don’t know what the Good Order Monks summoned.”
Oberon’s gaze shifted, his eyes glowing even brighter. Akira felt as if all the oxygen in the room had been sucked out.
“If its war against those otherworldly beasts, we will be cut down before the sun sets in the hills.”
Wind roared through the bar and Akira struggled to keep from dropping to the floor and puking up his breakfast.
“We will need a God on our side, Rushlight. See that they don’t kill her before she’s made.”
At that, the wind quieted and the room returned to normal. Oberon resumed his laughing manner and “dude bro” accent, but Akira had no doubt that his words were an order from a king.
Back in the Windenburg Shopping District…
“If you show me another device without a keyboard I will raze this place to the ground,” Vlad threatened, unconcerned that the volume of his voice was likely to draw not only onlookers, but mall security too.
The store clerk reeled back, unsure of what to do.
William hadn’t expected Vlad to take him so seriously so soon. But halfway through their second game, he declared a draw and insisted on going to a shopping mall in search of a new phone.
“Whoa there! No need to be quite so…dramatic,” William sputtered. “I believe what he’s trying to say is that he would like an older model phone.”
“But the latest SimPhone—”
William shot the man an incredulous look. Could he not see that Vladislaus was a half-second away from tearing open his stomach and pulling out his entrails?
“Really, there’s no need. We are…” he tried to think of an excuse that would shut the conversation down.
“…on a budget,” he finished.
The sales clerk nodded knowingly. “We have just the thing in the back room!”
As soon as he departed, Vlad turned, giving William an irritated look. “I am not on a budget!”
On their way of out the store, William found himself again worried about the curse. Although things were going according to plan, there was a small part of him that whispered concerns. What if Vladislaus was far too volatile, even with a conscience?
“Sooo, what exactly is your plan?” William asked with a joviality that he did not feel.
Vlad had been very quiet about how he intended to make things up with Alice, which was concerning since things that did not involve killing were not generally his strong suit.
He smiled, which only made William feel more unsettled. Alice liked the vampire, but Vladislaus’s idea of romance was…different.
“Worried Aurelius?” his tone was teasing. He paused to kick a trash can outside of the store. After a moment of brief consideration, he turned and threw it through the display window while yelling: “That’s for the keyboard!”
Calm, and apparently unaware of the sirens in the background, he gave William a careless shrug.
“I haven’t forgotten everything about courtship in the last 500 years.”
Emotions 1 – 9 by Simmerberlin
Elf Ears by Suzue
Elf Ears by Sikoi
One shoe for Men + pose pack by imadako
15 Sitting Poses by lsims1357
Just Me posepack by Atashi77
Male Stand Poses by Natalia-Auditore
From the Sims 4 Gallery
Fairy Village by Tiki5872
Hi-Tech Store by giani1990